Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, October 17, 2018

Terrorist attack at Kerch Polytechnic College

We start today’s briefing with tragic news coming from Kerch. Much has already been said by the leaders of the Russian Federation, our President, executive officials and legislators, and our citizens.

Law enforcement agencies have initiated an investigation. According to the latest reports, Russia’s Investigative Committee reclassified the incident as killing of two or more people by a generally dangerous method.  

I would like to express condolences to the victims’ friends and families on behalf of the Foreign Ministry top officials and all employees and wish a prompt recovery to the injured as well as strength and courage to their families as they go through these horrible minutes. We are with you, we share your pain. This is grief.

I would also like to say that we are receiving words of support for our country from our foreign colleagues and partners, from leaders of foreign countries, diplomats and the public. We appreciate the sincere words of condolences and support we hear.

We are also being asked if there are foreign nationals among the victims and the injured. Information on the presence or absence of killed or wounded foreign nationals and other information can be requested or reported by calling the hotline telephone numbers:

Russian Emergencies Ministry’s hotline, Kerch: +7-3652-55-09-05

Russian Embassy’s Consular Department, Kiev: +380-44-280-14-12

Russian Foreign Ministry Office in Simferopol: +7-3652-24-82-17

Our request is to pay attention to the actual facts and verified information from law enforcement bodies.

The above hotline numbers can be used to check if there were children and foreign nationals among the victims. We will look into this information and keep you posted.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Foreign Minister of Madagascar Eloi Maxime Alphonse Dovo

On October 20−22, Foreign Minister of Madagascar Eloi Maxime Alphonse Dovo will arrive in Moscow on a working visit.

On October 22, the foreign ministers of the two countries will hold talks at the Foreign Ministry. During the talks they will address a wide range of issues in traditionally warm Russian-Malagasy relations with a focus on the priority areas for further development. The officials will exchange views on current issues on the international and regional agendas, including the settlement of the conflicts in Africa, with a focus on the situations in the African Great Lakes Region, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Horn of Africa.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the Russia-Africa Public Forum

On October 22, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the Russia-Africa Public Forum organised by the World Association of Foreign Alumni of Russian Universities and African Business Initiative Union. Prominent Russian and African political and public officials, representatives of academic circles, the business community, and student and youth organisations are invited to the forum. The event will provide a platform to exchange views on the current issues of developing relations between Russia and various African countries, the current state of relations and the prospects for further development in the political, trade, economic, humanitarian and cultural fields, among others.

The forthcoming forum is viewed in the context of preparing for the Russia-Africa Summit, the importance of which President Vladimir Putin stressed during the 10th Anniversary BRICS Summit in Johannesburg in July.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the opening ceremony of an exhibition dedicated to the 190th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations with Brazil

On October 26, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the opening ceremony of an exhibition of archive materials dedicated to the 190th anniversary of establishing Russian-Brazilian diplomatic relations being prepared by the Russian Foreign Ministry with the support of the Embassy of Brazil in Moscow. Representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited in Moscow, academic and cultural circles, the media and public organisations are invited.

The exhibition will display documents and photos describing the history of relations between the two countries, the foundation of which was laid by a decree signed on October 3, 1828, on appointing the first Russian envoy to Brazil.

Today, the two countries are connected by strategic partnership relations as formalised in 2000. Brazil is Russia’s important partner in Latin America and the Caribbean Basin. Our countries enjoy productive cooperation at major international venues, including the UN, the G20 and BRICS. Cooperation in the trade, economic, investment, scientific and technical fields continues to grow. Contacts in civil society are consistently expanding.

Update on Maria Butina

We continue to watch the situation with Russian citizen Maria Butina who was arrested in the US on fabricated charges of acting as “a foreign government agent.” Russia qualifies her as a political prisoner.

On October 10, Russian Embassy diplomats in Washington made their regular visit to Butina in prison. After she was transferred to a general detention facility in late September, thanks to our efforts, the prison administration’s attitude towards Butina improved, she is not being subjected to the humiliating procedures we spoke about and is well-treated. We note that. Maria is allowed to leave the cell more often, take walks outside, communicate with other inmates and read books in Russian. This has generally helped stabilise the moral condition of our compatriot.

At present, Butina’s lawyers are preparing for the next court hearing, which is scheduled for November 13 of this year. We continue to insist on the absolute innocence of this Russian citizen.

Once again, we state our demand that Maria Butina be released and that she has become yet another victim of so-called “American justice” and is in fact a political prisoner due to the Russophobic hysteria reigning in Washington, D.C.

The next scheduled consular visit with Maria Butina in prison will take place today.

Developments in Syria

The situation in Syria remains complicated. There are continuing efforts to implement the memorandum on stabilising the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone, signed after the September 17 talks between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi. All radical groups should have left the demilitarised zone by Monday, October 15. After an earlier withdrawal of heavy weapons, some militants did leave the zone, but terrorists from the Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham group, formerly called al-Nusra, refused to go. Members of al-Nusra managed to unite a number of other Al-Qaeda affiliated groups, including Hurras al-Din and the Turkistan Islamic Party. In this way, the terrorists established a joint command centre with the aim of continuing their provocations. We hope that our Turkish partners will carry out their obligations under the memorandum and ensure its full implementation.

We remain concerned about the situation in northeastern Syria where the United States and their Kurdish allies are trying to establish quasi-state governance agencies to replace the Syrian government’s legitimate authority. The work of these agencies can hardly be called effective, and their arbitrary rule triggers protests among the local population. There are a growing number of armed and terrorist attacks by ISIS militants and members of new illegal paramilitary units, emerging as a result of discontent with self-appointed “rulers.”

The other day, at Al-Bahra refugee camp for internally displaced persons, ISIS militants captured several hundred civilians who had been abandoned by Kurdish forces. Most of the hostages originally came from towns on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. They had managed to escape those communities in the hope of evading arbitrary terrorist violence, ruthless air strikes and artillery attacks by the US-led coalition that supports the Kurds.

US forces support Kurdish units in a rather strange, unprofessional and clumsy manner. Quite often, the indiscriminate and violent US actions do not yield the desired results. Last Saturday, the Syrian media reported the use of phosphorus munitions by the coalition’s aircraft near the city of Hajin where women and children were killed as a result. It should be noted, for the sake of objectivity, that the United States did not sign an additional protocol to the 1949 Geneva Convention and the 1980 UNConvention on Certain Conventional Weapons that list phosphorus shells as weapons of mass destruction and ban their use. However, the US military could not but comprehend the dreadful consequences of using such weapons in residential areas.

We would like to note the following positive aspects. Efforts to restore normal life continue in areas controlled by the Syrian government.

On October 15, the Nasib checkpoint opened on the Syrian-Jordanian border, thereby restoring passenger and freight traffic along an international motorway linking Beirut, Damascus and Amman. It is hard to overestimate the significance of this event in the context of resuming economic activity in Syria, as well as its ties with neighbouring countries. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who have received temporary shelter in Jordan can now return home. We would like to make a separate statement underscoring the substantial and diverse contribution of Russian service personnel to reactivating this checkpoint, as well as the Quneitra checkpoint on the Israeli-Syrian demarcation line, established by the UN under the relevant agreement of May 31, 1974.

According to media reports, after protracted delays, the United States has finally agreed to provide security guarantees for a humanitarian convoy, organised by the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, in the 55-kilometre zone around America’s illegal Al-Tanf military base. It should be recalled that our Western colleagues made hysterical demands for humanitarian convoys and consignments to be allowed into other Syrian regions. And now, when it comes to a territory being illegally controlled by the US, the entry of UN humanitarian convoys becomes very problematic. The convoy, which was organised a while back, is to deliver long-awaited medical, food and other aid to residents of the Rukban camp for internally displaced persons. We hope that this humanitarian project will be implemented in the near future.

At the same time, official Syrian authorities are not allowed to enter the US-controlled zone around Al-Tanf, and this seriously complicates the situation in southern Syrian regions. This territory, which is virtually occupied by the United States, becomes a safe haven for terrorists and radicals and hampers the voluntary and safe return of tens of thousands of people who have been holed up at Rukban camp for many months to the places of their permanent residence.

Situation around the White Helmets

As more Syrian regions return back to a normal way of life, people are not worried anymore about the safety of their relatives as well as their friends and are starting to reveal what they have gone through.

Shocking details are being brought up about the activities of the White Helmets, which many in the West consider heroes and even saviours, but who in fact are humanitarian aid pseudo-providers.  It is frightening to consider what people had to go through in these territories.

It is obvious not only to us that the White Helmets have completely discredited themselves as an authoritative data source; they were promoted as such by the West, together with what has been advertised in London as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

It is gratifying to know that both the political establishment as well as the general public of the sponsoring countries of these NGOs have an increasing number of those who doubt the viability of the further funding of the White Helmets.

It is only too obvious that the White Helmets activists will continue doing their criminal jobs so long as it is required by their creators and sponsors. An example is the developments in the Idlib de-escalation zone, where there might be another staged chemical attack by Syrian troops. Independent journalists, doctors, bloggers such as Vanessa Beeley and Richard Labeviere, members of the organisation, Swedish Doctors for Human Rights, not only exposed the White Helmets, but also published shocking facts that prove that they deliberately harmed the health of civilians in Syria just for the sake of getting an interesting piece of footage to later be used as propaganda material.

Locals say that, for instance, in Aleppo, where things are getting back to normal, those who want to join the White Helmets do not need to be able to provide first aid, but should have recommendations from the local office of Jabhat al-Nusra. The information about the White Helmets’ admirable altruism turned out to be exaggerated.  Most of its members were not volunteers, but received a monthly pay package. Even after joining the organisation, they did not bother learning basic medical skills, for they were not paid for doing this. However, military training, including shooting and mine and blast training were obligatory.

It is interesting how those who praised this organisation and raised initiatives to award it with international prizes, those who made them equal to the great human rights defenders, people who gave their lives in the fight for peace, are feeling now. I remember that the entire world presented the organisation as an example of humanism and kindness. It would be fascinating to know what their supporters feel now when they hear the stories of people from liberated districts about members of the White Helmets who using weapons prohibited the real doctors from treating the wounded until the propaganda photos had been taken. We have repeatedly spoken of another inhumane activity of the White Helmets: the illegal black transplantation market, which bloomed for many years under their protection.

This activity is to be investigated. I believe that the facts which will be discovered and presented to the court and the public will shock everyone.

Several months ago now, nobody in the West even gave the working methods of the White Helmets a second thought. We remember it all too well how this summer during the liberation of the Syrian territory, members of the White Helmets with the active support of their sponsor’s diplomatic and financial aid hurried to evacuate themselves from the combat zone in southern Syria and went to Jordan.

It has been three months since these events, but the White Helmets still favour Jordan as a place to hang out. Naturally, they can move to the Netherlands, Germany or Great Britain, but for some reason their western patrons and creators, who initially promised their charges the chance to eventually land up in Europe in three weeks, as they said, have not yet fulfilled their promises . What is stopping them? No funding for tickets? Maybe it is hard to receive visas? Or is there something else?

Hundreds of activists and their families are living in a camp near Zarqa, isolated from the entire world. Their legal status has not been defined yet. All this makes you think that they are not needed in the West, in trouble-free countries. Maybe because their patrons saw the personal records of their charges that they have nourished and financed for so many years, and they have no desire to accept them in their countries.  It makes sense as it is one thing to commit crimes in Syria but it is something completely different to go to Europe after what has happened. In addition to this, being interviewed, the White Helmets might talk just a bit too much about their activities and spill the beans about their sponsors. They will need to survive and many (probably, from the point of view of those who are unwilling to give them shelter in Europe), not fully aware of the situation, can reveal what they did and whose money they used.

We will continue to monitor the situation and share with you new facts about the “humanitarian” activities of the White Helmets and other such groups together with all those remaining in Syria who keep getting in the way of the peaceful process of bringing back to normal the life of the civilians.

Update on the Russian crew members of the Temeteron tanker arrested in Libya

On October 9, the Tripoli court issued a ruling on the case of the Temeteron tanker crew arrested in Libyan waters on June 28, 2016 on suspicion of oil smuggling. Two Russian citizens, Captain Vladimir Tekuchev and First Mate Sergey Samoilov, and Second Mate, Ukrainian citizen Alexander Kodymsky, were sentenced to four years and three months in prison and a fine of about $10.5 million to compensate for “the damages.”

As of today, Russian diplomats are verifying the details of the ruling and the appeal procedure, and are going to provide the necessary assistance to our citizens.

Since the Russian sailors’ arrest in Libya, the Russian authorities have repeatedly appealed to the Libyan side for their release, including Foreign Ministry top officials and law enforcement agencies. This is a priority issue on the Russian-Libyan agenda.

British media accuse Russia of providing armaments to Khalifa Haftar’s forces

The British media have published reports on “Russian interference in Libya,” including weapons supplied to the Libyan National Army commanded by Khalifa Haftar.

We have already stated repeatedly at various levels that Russia is facing an all-in information war. Various factoids are freely thrown about. Unfortunately, the British media play a leading role in this. These allegations are made on a wide variety of issues, and now the international public has been served up insinuations about Russia’s interference in Libya.

I don’t think that those who have chosen this anti-Russia line will settle down. They don’t follow a path of logic or facts. We can see other methods used here. There is no point in starting a serious debate over this. We believe it isn’t necessary. Instead, we will continue to publish such articles in the fake news section on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

Speaking of Libya, I would like to stress that Russia has acted in strict compliance with the decisions of the UN Security Council regarding this country. Our practical steps focus on cooperation with all responsible Libyan parties in order to implement the roadmap proposed by UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of UN Support Mission in Libya Ghassan Salame. We will regularly update you on our efforts in this area.

Outrages committed by Ukrainian nationalists celebrating the Ukrainian Insurgent Army’s anniversary  

I believe all of you followed the absolutely outrageous events that took place in Kiev on October 14, when groups of militant nationalists from the Right Sector, the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists and other groups organised a series of provocations to mark the anniversary of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which became notorious for its atrocities against civilians during World War II.

These radical nationalists were once again searching for “the enemies within” and a mythical “fifth column” among Ukrainians. To intimidate citizens, they marched with torches, chanting neo-Nazi and xenophobic slogans, down the streets of several Ukrainian cities. The most large-scale rally was held in Kiev, where radicals attempted to destroy  monuments dedicated to the heroic history of the Ukrainian capital. They included the monument to Gen. Nikolai Vatutin, who was  in charge of the operation to liberate Kiev and got killed by accomplices of the Nazis. Moreover, the radicals also vandalised an office of one of political forces by throwing stones and smoke canisters into the building.

Radical nationalists still feel at ease and unchallenged in Ukraine, which has attracted the attention of many international organisations. The current Ukrainian government openly supports this behaviour, de facto allowing such atrocities. All of this is done in the name of combating the mythical “Russian threat.”

It is obvious that by fuelling the neo-Nazi, anti-Russian and other nationalist sentiments, the Ukrainian leaders are striving to shift focus from vital problems, namely, the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, and the current situation in the country in general. Of course, this is being used in the context of the political campaign; they are trying to secure more votes with the help of such barbarous methods. It is not accidental that on the same day, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was trying to frighten the public with  yet  another  “Russian aggression,” now around the Sea of Azov.

Regrettably, there is less and less hope that Ukrainian authorities will find the strength to switch from the policy of destruction, which only exacerbates the division within society, to overcoming the differences existing within it. In any case, I think that sooner or later, the Ukrainian people will give their own assessment of these actions.

Draft resolution of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly “Glorification of Nazism: Inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”

The delegation of the Russian Federation with other sponsors plans to introduce the traditional draft resolution, “Glorification of Nazism: Inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,” at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly.

This initiative arises from our deep concern with the emergence of various extremist groups such as neo-Nazis and skinheads who resort to acts of violence against people with different skin colour, people of different religions, and immigrants. One cannot but be disturbed by the recent surge in xenophobic and racist incidents amid the migration crisis in Europe. These groups are often inspired by the very ideology and practice that actually prompted the international community to establish the United Nations to deal with such outrages. That was 70 years ago. The world should have learned at least some lessons from history.

The resolution condemns the glorification of the Nazi movement and former members of Waffen-SS through building monuments and memorials and holding public demonstrations to glorify the Nazi past, the Nazi movement and neo-Nazism. It particularly emphasises that the erection of monuments in honour of the SS, organised marches and similar actions defile the memory of the countless victims of Nazism, have a negative impact on the younger generation, and are absolutely incompatible with the UN member states’ commitments. The sponsors of the resolution cannot ignore the fact that some countries are persistently trying to raise those who fought against the Anti-Hitler coalition or collaborated with the Nazis to the rank of national heroes and heroes of national liberation movements. We are confident that this is not about political correctness but about the most blatant cynicism and blasphemy with regard to those who freed the world from the horrors of National Socialism.

The draft emphasises that such actions cannot qualify as the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and to freedom of opinion and expression, but constitute a clear and obvious abuse of that right. Moreover, such acts may fall within the purview of Article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which requires the parties to the Convention to prosecute the perpetrators.

The draft resolution also takes into account a number of conclusions and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on modern forms of racism, Tendayi Achiume, formulated in her latest reports to the UN HRC and the UN General Assembly on the matter now raised by the Russian initiative. In particular, the Special Rapporteur pays considerable attention to the problem of using information and communication technologies to spread various racist and misanthropic ideas, the ideology of Nazism and neo-Nazism.

The Russian Federation and other co-sponsors cannot remain indifferent to the expanding practice of holding annual memorial events attended by public officials “in honour” of the Nazi Waffen-SS legionnaires, despite the tens of thousands of lives of people of different nationalities on their conscience from WWII. It is impossible to calmly look at how monuments to Waffen-SS legionnaires are erected on the former sites of memorials to the Soviet liberator soldiers and how days of liberation from Nazism are declared days of mourning. Veterans of the Great Patriotic War (WWII) are not permitted to wear their combat decorations, while the police protects the marches of Nazi veterans in full dress with orders and medals earned for the extermination of civilians.

Negotiations on the Russian draft resolution are scheduled for late October – early November. We are counting on a constructive dialogue with other delegations as well as on their motivated involvement. We are confident that it is a problem and that its solution should contribute to the consolidation and rallying of the UN member states.

Draft resolution on information security submitted to the UN General Assembly’s First Committee

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeatedly mentioned in his interviews that Russia was going to submit a draft resolution on information security to the UN General Assembly’s First Committee. On October 12, such a draft was officially provided to the General Assembly for consideration.

This resolution is aimed at ensuring that the international community adopts rules on countries’ responsible conduct in the information space and is focused on exclusively peaceful uses of information and communication technology, non-use of force or threat of force, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, respect for state sovereignty and prevention of conflicts in this area. It is also designed to protect the digital media from slanderers, rabble-rousers and the actions of some countries which are taking advantage of their technological edge and want to impose their will on other states.

Notwithstanding vigorous opposition by such countries, as of October 16 the Russian draft already had twelve co-authors, representing a quarter of the world’s population.

Currently, an increasingly intense discussion is developing in the UN regarding the Russian initiative which is aimed at ensuring the peaceful interaction of all states in information space.

United States denies visas for participation in UN events

We have repeatedly pointed out the deplorable situation regarding the issue of visas to our citizens by US consular agencies. Actually, the issuance is still blocked.

We drew attention to those statements, which, as you remember, were made by a US consular service representative in the Russian Federation. It was a proposal involving a kind of competition in granting visas. We replied that we were ready. We suggested that the time limits for issuing visas and processing applications be brought into line and of course simplifying the visa application form. Our suggestions have gone unanswered.

In practice, the waiting time for mandatory visa interviews at the US Embassy is 300 days, which on a massive scale disrupts travel for business, cultural, scientific, sports and humanitarian purposes as well as just for friendly contacts. People have to settle their urgent daily issues but just cannot do it.

The US authorities are also purposefully obstructing the normal work of Russian diplomatic and consular missions, for many months and sometimes for more than a year, by delaying entry clearance to new employees. Express visa refusals have become the norm. This also applies to the Russian Permanent Mission to the UN in New York, although under the agreement on locating the UN headquarters on US territory, Washington assumed an obligation to provide unimpeded operational conditions for the United Nations Organisation itself and the foreign missions accredited to it.

Russian citizens assigned to participate in specialised events at the UN headquarters constantly face delays in the processing of their visa applications or visa refusals. This appears to be an effort to silence our country’s voice. Another example of such US policy is the still pending visa issuance, requested way back in July, to a Russian Foreign Ministry employee who was expected at the UN General Assembly’s First Committee session which has been going on since the beginning of October.

Moreover, US authorities have recently, for no reason, denied entry to a Russian citizen officially appointed to the UN Secretariat. Prior to that, they delayed in responding for a whole year, creating problems for the Secretariat because of the vacancy remaining unfilled for such a long time.

We would like to emphasise that this issue is a concern not only to Russia but also to other UN member-states. The United States is overtly abusing its privilege of accommodating the headquarters of a world (not regional or someone’s private) organisation. Washington is manipulating visas to exert pressure on other countries, arbitrarily deciding whose representatives should be allowed to take part in UN activities and who should be denied access. What we see is a flagrant arbitrariness and an absolutely inadmissible violation of international law. It is high time for the world community to focus attention on this.

Statement by US Ambassador to Armenia Richard M. Mills

We noted a statement made by US Ambassador Richard M. Mills who is completing his mission in Armenia, at the American Chamber of Commerce in Armenia on October 9. The statement came to our attention mainly due to its straightforwardness.

Richard Mills said that for the past decades, the US Government and the US Embassy in Yerevan have purposefully supported certain groups in the Armenian society and certain representatives in the Armenian Government. The ambassador spoke about interference with the domestic affairs of a sovereign state without a hint of uneasiness – on the contrary, he was proud of it. Because the interference was allegedly justified and necessary for a good cause, “to make Armenia a fairer, more transparent society.”

Following this Ambassador Mills realised what he had done and corrected himself by saying that the recent political changes in the republic were “Armenian-led and Armenian-driven movements.” He also spoke about “the power of the Armenian people to affect change and persevere”. However, it was too late for him to explain himself because the first part of his message was already оut in the open.

The ambassador also gave a detailed lecture on how the Armenian political system functions and also recommendations on economic development. For example, Mr Mills said the following: “I am concerned about signals I am hearing that some in Government see the IT sector and related high-tech sectors as where the Government’s limited resources should be focused.  I’m aware of resources that have been shifted away from sectors like wine production, tourism, and mining for this reason.” So let гs make it clear, shall we? Is it right or wrong to interfere with the domestic affairs of other states?

His address culminated in a farewell order to his “civil society and media friends” to keep watching the government in a vigilant and uncompromising manner. There, Richard Mills threw in the news that it is to “strengthen civil society and the media” that a significant part of the $26 million in US funding to be provided next year is intended (in addition to the recently provided $14 million).

Today I started the briefing by commenting on the situation with Maria Butina who did not bring any sacks of cash to the United States nor did she tell the US Government how to spend its resources. She was in no official capacity there rather than a representative of the civil society. However, Maria Butina is now in an American prison. She is being humiliated and dragged through the mud in front of the entire world. But what kind of liberties do American ambassadors take all over the world?

Besides hitting the democracy which they are constantly defending, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, in addition to hitting civil society, they are striking themselves directly by exposing the hypocrisy that has been going on in US politics, at least over a period of the past few years.

All this clearly demonstrates the current policy of Washington which is obtrusively interfering with the internal affairs of other countries.

Cannabis legalisation in Canada

On October 17, the Cannabis Act, or Bill C-45, entered into force in Canada.

We are convinced that it runs counter to the fundamentals of the international drug control regime. Russia is an active member of the international community that counters drug distribution and tries to prevent drug trafficking. We have received questions on this, and, of course, we must comment.

First of all, we should speak about the infringement of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 and the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs of 1988, under which a member state must take measures to prohibit the production, export and import of cannabis, except cases when it is necessary for medical and research purposes. In addition, Canadian law does not define marijuana as a psychotropic substance in compliance with the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

Ottawa’s “drug-liberal actions” do not conform to the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties either, under which the Canadians must comply with the adopted international legal obligations and have no right to refer to national laws to justify their failure to observe the provisions of an international agreement. The pacta sunt servanda principle has not been annulled yet.

Despite obvious legal clashes, the Canadian leadership continues to promote the idea that the legalisation of recreational cannabis will protect people’s health and welfare. Ottawa prefers distorting key anti-drug tenets and ignoring the destructive outcome its actions will have for international legal drug control and especially for Canada’s population.

We believe Ottawa’s logic of selective compliance with legally-binding documents is unacceptable, hypocritical in its essence and goes against the tasks to protect “the rule-based world order” proclaimed by the Canadian authorities and actively promoted by some Western political powers.

By deliberately destroying international drug control, the Canadian government will create the world’s largest commercial drug market, which, despite all the assurances and the planned measures to prevent marijuana’s export outside the country, will sharply increase its trafficking to other states, including those that strictly comply with the above-mentioned conventions. It is likely that Russia and other countries will have to take additional measures to prevent attempts to smuggle cannabis from Canada.

New restrictive measures against the RT channel in the US

This week, we learned that the RT TV channel  has been removed from two cable television broadcast networks in the United States (Comcast Chicago and Spectrum), whose coverage area includes New York, New Jersey, San Diego, Los Angeles and Chicago.

In one case, this decision was based on the 2018 John McCain Amendment to the National Defense Law Act, which allows distributors to refuse broadcasting Russian content without giving reasons. In another, it was based on a change in the broadcasting strategy: the operator claimed that the distribution of the television signal in the internet era was inexpedient. At the same time, the available information indicates that the operator never cancelled the contracts with the rest of the channels.

Obviously, this part of the ongoing ousting of the RT and other Russian media, that offer an alternative view on world events and voice inconvenient facts for official Washington, from the American information landscape.

We are closely monitoring the developments of this situation. We state that such separate measures are links in one chain. This ideology, the stratagem put in practice, contradicts the US statements on being committed to freedom of the media.

Alleged Russian hacker attack on the Islam Channel

Recently, the British media published another series of strange, wild and absurd accusations about the Russian special services’ alleged hacking attack on the Islam Channel TV channel.

First of all, we would like to note that instigating speculations regarding Russia's actions has become mainstream for the UK media. After escalating the hysteria around the Skripal case and endlessly planting false stories in order to maintain the anti-Russian sentiment among locals, the media needs to speculate even more.

Our Embassy in London directly discussed the accusations with the heads of this channel. It turns out that in 2015, Islam Channel’s computers were hacked out of some archive information. The investigation of the case was carried out by representatives of the British intelligence’ cybersecurity services, who had unlimited and uncontrolled access to the channel's servers in the course of the following five months. As a result of the investigation, it was stated that the Islam Channel was subject to a professional hacker attack, which was most likely to be “organised by a state” (the name of the state was not mentioned).

The channel’s management learned about the “Russian version” of the incident from the media in early October. Can you imagine, the UK intelligence services carried out a whole investigation, had unlimited access and contacts with the channel’s management, but failed to provide the channel with such valuable information. And now, after several years, such sensational statements are made. The channel’s management was very surprised by these articles, which was noted in the corresponding statement. The channel accepted our position on Russia’s not being involved in the hacker attack sympathetically, noting how senseless and absurd these speculations were.

In general, it is obvious that London simply used the past attack on the channel in the information campaign against our country.

FAN ID holders may enter Russia visa-free until December 31, 2018

The end of the year is only a few months from now, so I would like to remind the foreign media and their audience that those who received a FAN ID card for World Cup 2018 can enter Russia visa-free on multiple occasions until December 31, 2018.

The Russian Foreign Ministry site has a section (http://www.mid.ru/fan-id) with information in six languages, that describes how FAN IDs can be used.

Simpler visa requirements with some EU countries remain an issue

Our discussion with the EU on liberalising visa requirements was very intensive until 2014. Thus, in 2006 Russia and the EU entered into an agreement on facilitating visa issuance which provided, in part, that several categories of people shall be granted visas with up to a five-year validity period. Subsequently, the possibilities of further visa facilitations were worked out. Substantive work to adopt visa-free requirements between Russia and the EU was performed during this time.

However, in March 2014, the European Union, referring to its concerns, took a unilateral decision to freeze the visa-free dialogue with Russia and refused to continue negotiations on further visa liberalisation. This step that affected the interests of both Russian and EU citizens sharply narrowed the possibilities for serious progress in this area. Moreover, pursuant to the advice of EU institutions, a number of EU countries imposed a ban on visa issuance to Russian citizens living in Crimea altogether. These countries were not at all confused by the fact that such visa discrimination constitutes a gross violation of the basic international and EU principles of human rights.

Russia remains committed to the transition to visa-free travel with the EU states not only because it evidently meets the interests of our countries and peoples but also because such a policy of non-obstructing humanitarian contact and ties has been entered into many Europe-wide documents particularly effective in the OSCE space. This is not just an empty dream. It has long been put on paper and formulated as a global objective, a goal we need to move towards.  

In the context of today’s challenging realities we continue to explain to our European partners the need for resuming the visa dialogue on a variety of platforms. Specifically, in the framework of the joint committee for monitoring the implementation of the above agreement we follow the line of continuing the work on the document to update it and make visa procedures simpler. We believe this process can only take place on a mutual basis.

Our view of the statements made by George Kent, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, in Baku

The position of Russia as a country that co-chairs the OSCE Minsk Group is well known. It is reflected in joint statements by the presidents of Russia, the United States and France in 2009-2013, by heads of foreign policy agencies of the three countries as well as by the co-chairs themselves. These statements are available on the OSCE website.

The co-chairs are considering visiting the region soon (additional information will be published soon). During their meetings with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan they intend to specify the parties’ positions and discuss which specific steps can be taken to activate the process of a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, including the understandings reached recently in Dushanbe.

The Center for Russian Language and Russian Culture opened at Democritus University of Thrace, Greece

The Department of Languages, Literature and Culture of the Black Sea countries at Democritus University of Thrace held an opening ceremony for the Centre for Russian Language and Russian Culture of the Russky Mir Foundation on October 9.

The foundation, supported by the Russian Consulate General in Thessaloniki, supplied the center with thousands of books and multimedia and presentation materials.

One of the centre’s objectives is to support the university’s Russian language programme and to expose those who are interested to Russia, its history, traditions and literature. It will undoubtedly promote broader cultural, educational and scientific exchanges between Greece and Russia.

We are grateful to the university administration for its efforts to strengthen Russian-Greek humanitarian ties. Areas of specialisation like the “Russian Language, Literature and Culture” course have been taught at the University since 2000, and the demand for Russian is constantly growing.

We welcome the opening of the centre, now the second one, in Greece. We are sure that it will make a contribution to mutual understanding and friendship between our peoples. We would like to wish the centre success, and everybody studying Russian, new experiences and achievements.

We have another area with information on cultural and humanitarian cooperation. Specifically, the Days of Russia are currently being held in Japan. We wanted to tell you what a rich program Moscow has prepared and is implementing. But I think, given today’s events, we should post this information separately on our information resources page. I do understand that this is the result of many people’s hard work, but I just cannot talk today about someone’s joy when other people are experiencing such grief.

 

Answers to media questions:

Question: Representatives of Turkey, Russia, France and Germany have been talking about preparing a summit on Syria since September. Why is it stalled? Is this due to the problems in Idlib and difficulties with removing terrorists from the region? Or is this due to the reluctance of your European partners? In your opinion, what are the prospects of building this quartet?

Maria Zakharova: Usually we do not comment on summits. It is the responsibility of the Presidential Executive Office spokespersons. The Executive Office has already commented on the four-party meeting in the format you described. There is a statement by Aide to the President on Foreign Policy Yury Ushakov. I would like to refer you to his comments.    

Summits, especially on the matters unrelated to earlier scheduled protocol and agreed visits, multilateral agendas regarding international organisations and forums, formats handling current global matters are held not for the sake of protocol and, with all due respect, not for the attention of the media but for achieving specific results as well as for working out decisions to be adapted and approved at the level of heads of state.

Holding a summit on this matter requires thorough preparations and certain developments on the ground. I do not think that it has anything to do with reluctance, impossibility or lack of agreement. On the contrary, it should be assumed that there are many nuances to consider. If this meeting is to happen all the details must be discussed.

As concerns the level of foreign ministers and special representatives of the above states who are responsible for the Syrian settlement, they are maintaining a continuous dialogue. They have telephone conversations and exchange delegations to address many practical matters.   

Question: Is it possible to create a quartet similar to the Astana format but with European participation?

Maria Zakharova: Some of the existing formats are efficient while the others, unfortunately, could be more helpful – for example, Geneva. There must be a realistic foundation for discussing and developing a new format. It is important that the existing formats bring results.

Question: Yesterday US Department of State Special Representative for North Korea Steve Biegun was in Moscow. The Foreign Ministry released a rather reserved comment on his visit. Could you tell us more about the topic of the talks between the special representative and deputy foreign ministers Igor Morgulov and Sergey Ryabkov? Did they discuss North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s possible visit to Russia? Why did Mr Biegun meet with two deputy ministers?

Maria Zakharova: Igor Morgulov is the deputy dealing with Asian affairs while Sergey Ryabkov is responsible for contacts with the United States. This explains the logic of the two meetings. As concerns our reserved comment, it was a press release. It was the information we provided. I cannot offer you any more details.

Question: What about Kim Jong-un’s visit?

Maria Zakharova: This is a summit, a top-level meeting. Once again, it is not the responsibility of the Foreign Ministry to comment. It is within the authority of the Presidential Executive Office.

Question: What do you think about Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin’s statement regarding the cancellation of the Russia-Ukraine agreement on the joint use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait?

Maria Zakharova: This is something new. Did he speak about this today? I did not notice. I think that there is no point in responding to every statement made almost daily by Kiev because all these statements follow the Russophobic course. We have already expressed our opinion on the destructive processes in the context of destroying the canvas of our bilateral ties. Obviously, all this does not only damage the bilateral relations in theory but hits both nations. I do not think that there is any sense in commenting on Pavlo Klimkin’s statement to that effect.

Question: US National Security Advisor John Bolton is due to visit Russia in late October. Is a meeting between him and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov being planned? Could you give us some details of the upcoming talks? Will the matter concerning the return of Russian diplomatic property be on the table?

Maria Zakharova: I can tell you about his possible contacts with Foreign Ministry officials. The other executive structures can make their own comments and this is what they will actually do, I believe. His meeting with Minister Lavrov is being considered. If an agreement is reached, we will make a separate announcement in that regard.

As for the range of problems on the table and whether matters concerning Russian property are among them, this topic has not been removed from the agenda and is brought up regularly during contacts with our American colleagues at all levels. These are diplomatic notes that our embassy in Washington forwards to our colleagues in the US Department of State.

By the time of our next briefing, we will have updated the statistics on how many enquiries were forwarded regarding the possibility to visit our own property and how many times this subject was raised. We will give you the facts. The matter has never been off the table. We brought it up and will continue to bring it up during each of the contacts with the American side.

Question: The Spanish newspaper El Pais published an article whose author analysed a whole number of foreign media and drew the following conclusions: “The EU is witnessing a rapprochement between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. This scares Europe. It fears that it might stop playing an important role in global affairs. This strengthens global tendencies towards a rapprochement with Russia, which, on top of everything else, is the biggest supplier of energy resources. Europe acknowledges its secondary role in global politics and wants to make friends only with those who are strong.” Could you comment on this rhetoric in the foreign media?

Maria Zakharova: I have not seen that article. I will read it. There must, of course, be analytical material in the media, or else they will stop being the media. It would be wrong to enter into any debates with the author of that article without reading it and being in somewhat different capacities. Let me read that article and then comment on it.

Question: Staffan de Mistura has said that he will resign as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Syria in late November for personal reasons. Does the Foreign Ministry have anycomment on that?

Maria Zakharova: We definitely appreciate his contribution as a professional, a specialist and a diplomat to the Syrian settlement. This is a person to whom the warring parties and the international mediators were lending an ear. Of course, he met with different assessments, but that is understandable. It is impossible to win everyone’s approval in such a complicated matter. The Russian side, diplomats at all levels worked with Staffan de Mistura more than closely. As regards his further activity and matters regarding his functioning in that capacity, these are matters of the future. So far, it is premature to discuss them.

Question: What do you think about the demolition of the Monument of Gratitude to the Red Army in Warsaw?

Maria Zakharova: Unfortunately, the general trend is obvious. Demolition of monuments not only changes the appearance of cities, towns and villages, it represents the rewriting of history, editing history textbooks post factum. This is an issue of manufacturing history, a mutation of historical memory.

It is very sad. Even more so, given that this affects monuments which are dedicated not to some political event, action, figures or measures, but to ordinary people. These people gave up their lives not because they had strong political beliefs, but because they understood their personal responsibility for the fate of other ordinary people. Back then they did their best to save Europe, other young people and their families from fascism, Nazism and all the evil which plagued Europe at that time.

The worst thing is that political views keep interfering with history. All the politics, all the political prejudice makes people forget about the fate of actual people – and many of these monuments are covered with the names of actual people – and this cannot be tolerated. After all, Poland is devoted to all the democratic values which we hear about so often. We have heard on so many occasions about human rights and respect for the protection of basic modern European values. Why then? All these words are reduced to nothing by the actions which are accompanied by the silent, and sometimes not so silent connivance of Warsaw’s authorities or regional authorities.

We will, once again, comment on this particular incident, but it represents a trend. We have often heard Polish politicians and officials say that these are just isolated cases. No, this is not about isolated cases, this is about a political strategy. Again: a political strategy. And it is no coincidence that it is happening at this time. Sadly, this is when the last actual participants in the war are leaving us: they are the veterans, the people who can tell us the truth and simply uphold the honour of other people to whom these monuments are dedicated. The veterans are few in number now, and their voice gets weaker every day, simply because nature works this way. This is the moment when neither veteran organizations, nor individual veterans are strong enough, even not physically strong, to attend rallies and defend the remembrance of their fellow soldiers – and we are witnessing this dishonourable insult, rewriting history and, most importantly, a desecration of the memory and fate of specific people. It is true that Russia and Poland have both differing and same views towards our past and the problematic issues of our mutual history, but there are lives of specific people who did not fight for politics: they fought shoulder to shoulder with Polish soldiers for freedom, including the freedom of Poland. Their memory, their fates and the fates of their families are completely neglected and forgotten in Warsaw.

Question: Last week, Russian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Mikhail Bocharnikov said that branches of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and the National Research University - Higher School of Economics would be opened in Azerbaijan soon. How do you describe Russia-Azerbaijan cooperation in education?

Maria Zakharova: In a positive way only. This is very important element in our bilateral cooperation. I would like more examples of this to take place. This requires effort, and efforts are being made.

Question: My question concerns the upcoming election in Donbass. We cannot help but note the United States' and Ukraine's strong desire to prevent this election from happening. First Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Irina Gerashchenko told a briefing in Kiev that the Ukrainian delegation's key argument when addressing all groups will be the demand that ‘Russia and its puppets immediately stop the preparations for this fake election on the occupied territories of Donetsk and Lugansk.’ Can you comment on this statement? Do Ukraine and the United States have the right to insist on canceling the election in Donbass?

Maria Zakharova: By puppets they mean those with whom they signed the Minsk Agreements at the negotiating table. This is how their attitude has changed towards the people official Kiev signed a joint action plan with. I think this says a lot about the Kiev regime and its true intentions regarding the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. If someone wants to actually implement the Minsk Agreements, then the people living in Donbass should be called fellow citizens, citizens of Ukraine and part of its nation, but not puppets. But this is how they actually treat them. Next time, when Kiev accuses the Russian Federation of non-implementation, as they like to say, of the Minsk Agreements, they should be reminded of this. Stirring more hatred towards its own people will lead to no good, all the more so as we are talking about the revival of the Ukrainian state and the Ukrainian nation. These statements are arrows aimed at the wounded Ukrainian state.

Question: When commenting on yesterday's Su-27 crash, Russian State Duma deputy Alexander Sherin expressed concern about the presence of a US pilot among the crew, saying this is common practice in cases when representatives of different countries intend to take part in actual combat operations. What does the Russian Foreign Ministry think of this closeness between the Ukrainian and US military?

Maria Zakharova: I think you are mistaken, and what we see here is not closeness but some other form of interaction, where there is a big brother, Washington, and those it controls; I actually think the word puppet is more suitable when talking about these political figures in Ukraine. In this case, delivery of different kinds of armaments and talks about it, allocating additional funding, constantly stepping up the rhetoric regarding Ukraine's admission to various blocs, using the words and notions that have a clear idea and picture of a military or forced scenario when speaking about Ukraine - this all has nothing to do with a respectful attitude to this state and nation. There is nothing worse for Ukraine at its present stage than pushing it to new belligerent solutions to the intra-Ukrainian conflict.  

We have already mentioned today what all this is aimed at. Definitely not at Ukraine getting a chance to restore its normal life and solving its problems. Sadly, all this only aggravates them.  

Question: My question is on northeastern Syria, specifically so-called Syrian Kurdistan. You and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the situation was threatening Syria’s integrity, considering that since 2012 and after Damascus lost control over the territory, there have been different governing bodies there. It was also repeatedly stated, even here in this building, that the Kurds had the right to self-determination. What is the source of threat today - the Kurdish authorities or the US military bases?

You also mentioned the role of the Geneva format. The UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura is now in Damascus to participate in the forming of the Constitutional Committee. In your opinion, will he be able to launch the committee before the end of his term?

Maria Zakharova: I cannot answer the second question. It is not a matter of guessing but that of practical efforts.

Now, what is Russia concerned about, the US military bases in the region or the establishment of Kurdish governing bodies? We are open about this matter and constantly talk about it. The fact is that the authority of official Damascus is being abolished in those territories. The legitimate authorities are being prevented from carrying out reforms and exercising their powers there. This is the problem. Of course, the American presence is illegitimate in the region; it adds to the instability and is part of a strategy that is not aimed at reuniting and restoring the country or solving its problems. This is a destabilising factor. Give me at least one example of how the presence of US troops on the ground helped to stabilise the situation politically. They helped in no way. To stabilise the situation politically, you have to engage in and encourage an inclusive dialogue. It is necessary, not to divide  the ethnic groups in Syria into different categories, but on the contrary work towards reunification [of the country] and development of a new constitution based on different views, create political parties and various associations, and start  building a new country in political terms. I don’t think you can give me a single example of how the US military are contributing to this process. This is not because you do not know something, but because there are no such examples. Even more so, all of this is happening against the backdrop of efforts to prevent Damascus from controlling its own territory. Nobody is against or denies the existence of local self-government authorities. We are talking about an integral state, and this is as an integral state that the global community sees Syria in the future. An integral state means that the national capital can exercise its power throughout its territory and in all regions.

Question: How proactive is Russia in helping to maintain dialogue between the Kurds and Damascus? In his recent statement, Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Walid Muallem said that they would regain control over the region by force and did not envisage any dialogues for the time being.

To what degree is Russia interested in the continuation of this dialogue considering that the Kurds have never said they want to secede from Syria?

Maria Zakharova: That would be strange. We all talk about (and this is the position of Russia and all the main players, at least the position stated publicly) Syria being seen as an integral, secular and free state where people of different faiths, ethnicities, political views etc. can exercise their rights. But the focal idea is always the same: Syria must be an integral state.

As for the dialogue, Russia will, of course, facilitate it and encourage it in every way. This is our original stance.

Speaking about Mr Muallem and his statements, I cannot comment on this particular quote because I have not seen it. But I saw other statements coming from  Damacus, including those made by  Mr Muallem, who said that the war against terrorism would continue. I think that he was most likely referring to the  use of force against militants and terrorists. We cannot deny the legitimate government   the right to implement their strategy and policies throughout the country. Moreover, right now we can see that Damascus has regained control over most of the national territory (more than 90 percent). We can see that the rebuilding effort is in full swing. A dialogue is the way to remove e numerous problems which, as you rightly noted, are still in existence. The question is whether the US military is helping this dialogue or encouraging the Kurds to do something else in their areas? This is still an open question.

Question: Novaya Gazeta reported yesterday that citizens of the Russian Federation and of Vietnam were arrested, not just detained, in the Czech Republic. They have allegedly tampered with the residence permit issuance system. Vietnamese law enforcement agencies are already dealing with the matter while their Russian colleagues aren’t yet. What can you tell us about this situation?

Maria Zakharova: We saw this publication. We took note of the news about the detention of several, as was reported, citizens of Russian origin in the Czech Republic on suspicion of committing unlawful acts. I would like to say that the Russian Embassy in the Czech Republic is in contact with the law enforcement agencies in this state and is in the process of ascertaining the details of the incident, including the allegation that the detainees are Russian citizens. As soon as we have more information, we will share it with you.

QuestionThe United States has long been threatening to impose the toughest ever sanctions on Iran on November 4, the goal of which is to nullify Iranian oil sales.

The other day, the Israeli media, including the most progressive ones, elaborately hinted that Russia was trying in some way to help Iran avoid the negative ramifications of these sanctions. In this regard, a large energy contract between Russia and Iran is being prepared, in accordance with which Russia will buy Iranian oil through the Caspian Sea and thus contribute to the process of leveling the effect of the sanctions. What do you think about the United States’ attempts to abandon the nuclear deal and introduce more hard-hitting sanctions? How true is the rumour that a major energy agreement between Russia and Iran is in the making?

Maria Zakharova: With regard to our view on the United States leaving the JCPOA, we have given statements on this several times. We have released a corresponding statement, and Minister Lavrov and all Russian political figures have talked about this, because, as you rightly noted, this concerns not only politics, but also the economy, international stability, and a vast number of other aspects of international life, plus the foreign economic activity of our country and other states. We see that these are destructive actions, which are made in opposition to the vision of the situation by the international community and directly contradict international law, as enshrined in the UN Security Council resolution, which is a binding document. This was no longer just an agreement between several countries, but a binding document of global importance.  All these subtleties of the Russian position were well known. All materials are available on our website. We see nothing constructive in the short term and even more so in distant future. We see that this situation is already creating additional tension in the region, leading not only to political and military-political destabilisation, but also to economic one.

The foundation that this agreement laid, namely, the removal of military-political concerns, opened the way to good interaction in the economic, financial and energy spheres. This interaction is already underway. European companies began to cooperate with their Iranian partners. I’m not even talking about us. You are aware that this interaction was, unfortunately, marred by the imposed international legal sanctions. However, in the contexts that we were legally able to implement, we did so completely freely, being fully aware of the importance of lifting the embargo across a variety of areas.

Accordingly, the US decision was not totally unexpected. We knew where it was going. I think that the new administration made such statements during its campaign, when it was putting together its election programme. When it was effectively done, we knew it was a well-considered, from the domestic political point of view, decision, but which is destructive for the international agenda.

I think - I will allow myself a bit of a political analysis - November 4 is not a random date. Preparations for the US elections are in full swing. The parties have stocked up an entire arsenal of far-reaching accusations and a variety of flamboyant statements. I think that this may be part of an internal political strategy and struggle that is already beyond all reasonable limits. I’m saying this not because I’m going to evaluate internal processes, as they have long since ceased to be internal.

With regard to the agreements, I will clarify this matter with the experts and let you know the answer.

You said that Russia wanted to help Iran avoid the consequences. The issue here is not about helping Iran specifically. Since we are talking about the energy sphere, the world today is entirely interdependent. This is not a matter of “saving” a bilateral market situation, it is much broader. Look at the concerns expressed by the European bodies, the EU, and other countries, because everything that major businesses and the energy sector were looking for as they drafted the JCPOA and in the early phases of its implementation has to be curtailed now. Moreover, threats are coming from the United States about additional unilateral sanctions, etc. Of course, this represents a direct impact on major businesses, which also, to put it mildly, has a destructive effect. I will find out if there are any available agreements and let you know the answer.

Question: Anna Akopyan, wife of Armenia’s acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, has launched an initiative called “Women for Peace” as a way to call for peace in our region. Many Russian women have visited the Nagorny Karabakh region to call for peace. They include author Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Moscow hospice director Nyuta Federmesser, State Duma deputy Svetlana Zhurova, and others. What is the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stance on the initiative?

Maria Zakharova: We take a positive view on any initiative that actually aims to achieve peace.

As for this one, neither its sponsors, nor participants have contacted the ministry, so it’s hard to have an opinion about its goals. No one has shared information with us, and all we know about it we have learned from the media. In principle, the success of campaigns like this one depends on support and understanding from all parties to the conflict, as a conflict it is.

Question: We would like you to comment on the incident that took place at the General Consulate in Istanbul, namely the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Many countries have made their positions clear on this.

Maria Zakharova: But it hasn’t made the situation any clearer. I can tell you sincerely and frankly that I have been following the updates both professionally and personally, because this is about a member of the media, and one of the most grievous accusations that has been recently levelled at a country and a diplomatic institution. We are following up on this.

I would like to remind you that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has already given his comment, calling for more facts to be revealed. I can say once again that, first, it is law enforcement that should act as the principal source of information. Second, we welcome the joint effort announced by Saudi Arabia and Turkey to investigate.

As for many politicians having commented on this, as you said, I can say that the many comments that have been made failed to add clarity. I believe we should focus on what law enforcement has to say, all the more so since, as far as I understand, the parties have joined forces. I would prefer the world to learn the truth and the political declarations to follow, not precede, the verdict rendered by law enforcement.